The terms "sustainability", "slow", and "fashion" have never been more popular.
On Instagram, how many of you are not following sustainability-related accounts?
We certainly need to talk and think more about sustainability. But just talking and thinking is useless if we don't take practical steps.
Sustainability has to be adopted as a lifestyle and not as a "trend".
And this is the problem that we see with many brands, influencers, and sustainable fashion agencies.
Being sustainable has become a fashion trend, but as we know, all fashion trends are transitory, and sustainability cannot be.
Sustainability cannot be fleeting and cannot be translated into a pure and simple marketing strategy. Many brands are using it only as a branding element.
What pseudo sustainable fashion brands are doing wrong?
In practice, the business and production plan of these pseudo slow brands is far from sustainable. They say they use biodegradable, vegan, or recycled materials, but that's all about it.
- they do not produce locally;
- they do not practice fair selling margins;
- they invest thousands in marketing but refuse to pay fair to workers engaged in their production;
- they do not practice recycling in their own facilities;
- they do not apply circular design and zero waste in their collections;
- they do not have sustainable packaging;
- they prioritize exports rather than investing in fair and local trade;
- you can't meet the real designers from their collections;
These are just some of the factors commonly left behind by some pseudo sustainable fashion brands.
They invest only in one of the elements of sustainability (usually fabrics) and focus only on it to create their entire marketing campaign and promote themselves as sustainable. However, other elements of sustainability are subtly neglected.
We know that achieving 100% sustainability is very difficult for small, medium, and large brands. But we need a collective effort to implement the different aspects of sustainability, and we cannot stop only in one.
This article serves to draw consumers' and brand's attention to some of the things we have seen in the sustainable fashion production and trade industry in the last 4 years since we created The Slow Fashion Innovation Program, that helps makers to connect with sustainable fashion suppliers from Europe to start a sustainable fashion brand. We work mainly with sustainable fashion manufacturers and suppliers from Portugal.
During these past 4 years, we have closely followed the efforts of new and small brands to position themselves in the sustainable fashion market. A market that despite claiming to be "sustainable" has become extremely competitive.
The sustainable fashion market and the financial stability of sustainable and fair trade makers, who are devoting their lives to create brands that are their passion, have been severely hampered by greenwashing advertising. These large brands that manage to charge low prices for products they call sustainable.
What the consumer does not know is that they achieve this because they produce in large quantities, usually in developing countries that have extremely precarious labor laws. In these countries, these brands pay ridiculous prices for workers' labor.
We see fast fashion brands being considered examples of sustainability because they use vegan raw materials. After all, they use one or another organic fabric in some collection. But what about all other aspects of sustainability, especially local production and fair trade, where are they?
I leave the answer with you, my friend, for a further reflection.
Moving Sustainable Fashion forward
With the approach of what is known as the main shopping day of the year, the terrible and consumerist Black Friday is important to keep an eye out because some of these Fast Fashion brands will certainly put prices down there to convince you to buy more.
Instead of buying more, we recommend you, the consumer, to buy better.
At Slow Innovation Brands want to make you a provocation, ask the brands what the costs to produce each item you purchase. Ask where it was made, what are the composition of their materials, other questions related to the journey, causes, and values from the business.
And if you are a brand founder, promote a camping sharing aspects of your sustainable, local, and fair trade production. Share more about your vision, your passion, and inspiration for the creation of each product.
On October 28th, we will be releasing on our platform a video with tips and inspiration from sustainable fashion brands already in the market, such as Patagonia, Sentinela, and others, with ideas to enforce your transparent advertising. Check on your member area at the Slow Innovation Brands platform. Are you not a member yet? Register now!
During this Black Friday, help to promote transparency and stop fast fashion.
May this November 27th can be the Friday of Transparency and fair trade instead of exploitative and predatory consumerism.
Portugal, October, 18th, 2020.
By Tatí Souza
Lawyer and Sociologist
Slow Innovation Brands Founder